My first job after discharge from the U.S. Navy as World War II ended was as reporter for the McAlester, Oklahoma, News-Capital, our hometown daily newspaper.
That day, I had been to the state employment agency, seeking to sign up for what the government called “rocking chair” payments. Veterans were given $50 per month till they could find a job. It was the noon hour and I was told to come back later.
Walking out the door on Main Street, I noticed the newspaper office next door.
I went inside and an older lady walked to the counter and inquired, “How may I help you?”
I told her I was looking for a job. “As janitor or reporter?”
I thought for a few seconds and said “reporter.” That certainly sounded more exciting than “janitor.”
She ushered me to an elderly, well-dressed gentleman seated at a desk in the back of the office. He was the owner and publisher of the paper.We talked about 30 minutes. Among other things, he asked me if I could use the typewriter, which I answered in the affirmative. The rest is history but not the subject of this story.
Oklahoma was a “dry” state — no liquor could be bought or sold legally. Bootleggers were numerous and there seemed little interest on the part of law enforcement to curtail their activities.
Being from a “hard-shell” Baptist background, I wrote numerous stories questioning why a blind eye attitude allowed the industry and its nefarious activities to continue. One morning, my office phone rang. It was one of the leading bootleggers in the town. He said, “Be on the curb in front of the newspaper office in 30 minutes. I’ll be there.”
I told our editor of my safety concerns and asked if the newspaper would provide me with protection.
He rocked back and forth in his swivel chair, hands behind his head, looking at the ceiling. Finally, he said, “No, but we’ll go $300 on a funeral.”
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